LA Takes Huge Step in Developing the 'American Messi'

New LA Galaxy II club could help LA, MLS and North American soccer grow
by Roy Rosell   |   Tuesday, February 04, 2014

John Hefti Photography - LA Galaxy, MLS

The Super Bowl, or the Super Bore as this year's edition should be called, has been the center of the American sports media spotlight for the past few weeks. The excitement amounted to what was ultimately 3 hours of multi-million dollar commercial breaks, 15 minutes of Bruno Mars featuring a half-naked Red Hot Chili Peppers, and a game that was about as lopsided as Platini's morals.

All of this obsessive media coverage leading up to the Super Bowl resulted in what could be the most important news of the past year in American sports being thrown in the back burner and not getting the attention it so thoroughly deserves. No, I'm not talking about the fact that Toronto FC went from being a contender for "worst team in the world" to MLS Cup favorites in less than a month; nor am I referring to David Beckham and Lebron James' insistence on opening a franchise in a market that has time and time again proven incapable of sustaining the type of support that MLS now requires.

I'm talking about Los Angeles Galaxy II.

"LA Galaxy are taking a monumental step for player development in North America,” said LA Galaxy President Chris Klein. “The creation of LA Galaxy II, through USL PRO, provides the Galaxy with a fully realized player development program starting with the Under-12 Academy teams through the LA Galaxy first team."

Like Barcelona's famed La Masia, which has developed masters of the sport like Lionel Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and countless others, the Galaxy now have the ability to provide prospects with a full development path from the U-12 level, to the first team.

So what's the big deal?

Picture this scenario: Imagine another Freddy Adu-type talent gets scouted by an MLS team and joins their academy at age 13. He's being touted as the "American Messi" and teams from all over the world are keeping a watchful eye on his development. By the time he's 15, he's already better than everyone else in the academy and is just lighting up the field every game he plays.

So what are the club's options for dealing with a player like this?

- Convince him to stick it out in the academy for a few more years, playing with kids with half his talent. In this situation, the player and those vested in his success will know that his development will stall if he's not consistently challenging himself. This scenario will likely result in losing him to another team outside of the US, as has happened countless times in this league because of the lack of a progressive development system.

- Sign him to the first team. This will result in the 15-year-old future star being thrown in the fire and forced to learn on the run. The jump from a U-18 development academy team to a first team is gargantuan, and as we have learned with Adu, starting a kid on a first division team with players twice his size and maturity level could result in an unbalanced mental and physical development, thus, stunting his growth as a player.                                                                  

If you want a perfectly cooked steak, you can't do it with a flamethrower. The same applies to player development. At the moment, the MLS is trying to do just that by expecting its academy standouts to make the leap from the U-18s to the first team, where they are stripped of their playing time and forced to "develop" on the bench.

Los Angeles Galaxy II solves this once elusive issue entirely by providing a stepping stone for these high performing academy youngsters to continue developing at a higher level without giving up game time.

This is a crucial step in making LA a powerhouse for many years to come.

For the sake of the continual growth of US soccer and the MLS, it is crucial soccer that other MLS teams acknowledge the successes of programs and philosophies instilled by other teams, and make an effort to match or exceed them. If every other team in the league implements this ideology for player development, you can bet we will produce our very own "American Messi" in the next 20 years. At least we know there's one team in the league that is now capable.

NEXT UP: March 8 – Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake, StubHub Center, Carson, Calif. 10:30 p.m. EST, MLS Live.

Roy ROSELL

Nationality:
USA
College:
Cal Poly Pomona
Club Domestic:
LA Galaxy
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Absolute fanatic, especially passionate about MLS and it's growth. LA Galaxy columnist with no filter and a knack for the controversial. Travelled the world watching soccer matches, but there's no place like home.
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